Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

OSJ: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Harem

Opera San Jose kicked off its 35th anniversary season with a delectably effervescent production of their first-ever mounting of Mozart’s youthful opus, The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Isouard's Cinderella: Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square

A good fairy-tale sweeps us away on a magic carpet while never letting us forget that for all the enchanting transformations, beneath the sorcery lie essential truths.

The Royal Opera House lets everyone in on the act

The Royal Opera House today opens the doors to its transformed new home, following an extensive three-year construction project.

A Winterreise both familiar and revelatory: Ian Bostridge and Thomas Adès at Wigmore Hall

‘“Will you play your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?” the wanderer asks. If the answer were to be a “yes”, then the crazy but logical procedure would be to go right back to the beginning of the whole cycle and start all over again. This could explore a notion of eternal recurrence: we are trapped in the endless repetition of this existential lament.’

Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, 2018

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, given during last weekend, was both a tribute to the many facets of opera and a preview of what lies ahead in the upcoming repertoire season.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Dorothea Röschmann at Wigmore Hall: songs by Schumann, Wolf and Brahms

One should not judge a performance by its audience, but spying Mitsuko Uchida in the audience is unlikely ever to prove a negative sign. It certainly did not here, in a wonderfully involving recital of songs by Schumannn, Wolf, and Brahms from Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau.

Two of Garsington Opera's 2018 productions to reach a wider audience

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce that on Saturday 6 October, BBC Radio 3’s ‘Opera on 3’, will broadcast the production of its first festival world premiere - The Skating Rink by David Sawer set to a libretto by Rory Mullarkey based on a novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño.

The Path of Life: Ilker Arcayürek sings Schubert at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall’s BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert 2018-19 series opened this week with a journey along The Path of Life as illustrated by the songs of Schubert, and it offered a rare chance to hear the composer’s long, and long-germinating, setting of Johann Baptist Mayrhofer’s philosophical rumination, ‘Einsamkeit’ - an extended eulogy to loneliness which Schubert described, in a letter of 1822, as the best thing he had done, “mein Bestes, was ich gemacht habe”.

Heine through Song: Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau open a new Wigmore Hall season

The BBC Proms have now gone into hibernation until July 2019. But, as the hearty patriotic strains rang out over South Kensington on Saturday evening, in Westminster the somewhat gentler, but no less emotive, flame of nineteenth-century lied was re-lit at Wigmore Hall, as baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Malcolm Martineau opened the Hall’s 2018-19 season with a recital comprising song settings of texts by Heinrich Heine.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Prom 74: Handel's Theodora

“One of the most insufferable prigs in a literature.” Handel scholar Winton Dean’s dismissal of Theodora, the eponymous heroine of Handel’s 1749 oratorio, may well have been shared by many among his contemporary audience.

Remembering and Representing Dido, Queen of Carthage: an interview with Thomas Guthrie

The first two instalments of the Academy of Ancient Music’s ‘Purcell trilogy’ at the Barbican Hall have posed plentiful questions - creative, cultural and political.

Landmark Productions and Irish National Opera present The Second Violinist

Renaissance madrigals and twentieth-century social media don’t at first seem likely bed-fellows. However, Martin - the protagonist of The Second Violinist, a new opera by composer Donnacha Dennehy and librettist Enda Walsh - is, like the late sixteenth-century composer, Carlo Gesualdo, an artist with homicidal tendencies. And, Dennehy and Walsh bring music, madness and murder together in a Nordic noir thriller that has more than a touch of Stringbergian psychological anxiety, analysis and antagonism.

The Rake's Progress: British Youth Opera

The cautionary tale which W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman fashioned for Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 opera, The Rake’s Progress - recounting the downward course of an archetypal libertine from the faux fulfilment of matrimonial and monetary dreams to the grim reality of madness and death - was, of course, an elaboration of William Hogarth’s 1733 series of eight engravings.

Prom 71: John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique play Berlioz

Having recently recorded the role of Dido in Berlioz' Les Troyens on Warner Classics, there was genuine excitement at the prospect of hearing Joyce DiDonato performing Dido's death scene live at the BBC Proms. She joined John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique for an all-Berlioz Prom at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 5 September 2018. As well as the scene from Les Troyens, DiDonato sang La mort de Cleopatre and the orchestra performed the overture Le Corsaire and The Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens, and were joined by viola player Antoine Tamestit for Harold in Italy.

ENO Studio Live: Paul Bunyan

“A telegram, a telegram,/ A telegram from Hollywood./ Inkslinger is the name; And I think that the news is good.” The Western Union Boy’s missive, delivered to Johnny Inkslinger in the closing moments of 1941 ‘choral operetta’ Paul Bunyan and directly connecting the American Dream with success in Tinseltown, may have echoed an offer that Benjamin Britten himself received, for the composer had written expectantly to Wulff Scherchen on 7th February 1939, ‘(((Shshshsssh … I may have an offer from Holywood [sic] for a film, but don’t say a word))).’ Ten days later he wrote again: ‘Hollywood seems a bit nearer - I’ve got an interview with the Producer on Monday’.

Young audience embraces Die Zauberflöte at Dutch National Opera

The Dutch National Opera season opens officially on the 7th of September with a third run of Simon McBurney’s production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, an unqualified success at its 2012 premiere. Last Tuesday, however, an audience aged between sixteen and thirty-five got to see a preview of this co-production with English National Opera and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

25 Aug 2018

The Barber of Seville
at the Rossini Opera Festival

Oh no, not another Barber! Well, it is the 150th anniversary of the world’s greatest opera composer so what better way to commemorate the occasion than to program his most famous opera! And hope for the best.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at the 2018 Pesaro Festival

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Maxim Mironov as Almaviva, Davide Luciano as Figaro [All photos by Studio Amati Bacciardi, courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro]

 

And the best it was, though Canadian born Europe based conductor Yves Abel had some formidable competition for being the star of the show, namely 88 year old Pier Luigi Pizzi who staged it. In turn Signor Pizzi was upstaged by Italian baritone Davide Luciano, Seville’s factotum Figaro. But even he disappeared into the shadows when Russian tenor Maxim Mironov cut loose with his brilliant “Cessa di piu resistere,” that closes the show.

Never has the patter been more cuttingly precise at breakneck speed than when Italian bass baritone Pietro Spagnoli unleashed his “A un doctor della mia sorte” nor has the malicious pleasure of “La calunnia è un venticello” been more indulged than when intoned by Italian bass Michele Pertusi.

Barber2_Pesaro2.pngMichele Pertusi as Basilio, Pietro Spagnoli as Bartolo

That Rossini himself became the true star of the show can only be credited to stage director Pizzi who stripped the comedy of any specific scenic context using only a white box, anonymous white architecture, white furniture, a visual technique that thrust his actors and Rossini’s singers into high relief. The octogenarian stage director instilled an energy of personality into this production that effected the comic process — the triumph of youth over age — in monumental terms. It was the all too rare proof that Il barbiere is indeed one of the repertoire’s greatest masterpieces.

The overwhelming atmosphere of the production was that of youth, from Fiorello, sung by Venetian baritone William Corrò, to Almaviva and to Rosina, sung by splendid Japanese mezzo soprano Aya Wakizono, and finally, and even most of all to Figaro who stripped to his culottes, jumped into the fountain and then did a beefcake parade along the catwalk fronting the orchestra pit regaling us with his “Largo al factotum!”

None of this possible, of course, without conductor Abel who propelled Rossini’s numbers onto plateaux of lyricism that bordered on delirium. Of greater accomplishment was perhaps the pacing the maestro imposed on Rossini’s parade of blockbuster numbers, allowing us to savor each of them to the fullest but leaving us resource to sink ourselves into the opera’s two gigantic finales.

There was virtually no comic schtick (sight gags) in Pizzi’s production, the innate charm of each of its virtuoso singers needing no embellishment to create character. Except the music lesson scene which itself is nothing but schtick, and usually annoying. Director Pizzi solved this in simple strokes. There was no piano. Fiorello mimicked a cello for “L’inutil precauzione” conducted by Almaviva disguised as a dwarf. When it was Bartolo’s turn to show how to sing Sig. Spagnoli leapt into falsetto soprano!

Barbar2_Pesaro3.pngAlmaviva disguised as dwarf music teacher [shoes on knees], Figaro, Basilio and Rosina

Note that before the performance I had spotted three little people among the spectators. Hopefully they enjoyed the comedy of such travesty (Almaviva had shoes on his knees) made transparent when Almaviva jumped to his feet from time to time when Bartolo wasn’t looking).

Not to forget that the storm was nothing more than the throes of fever that overtook Rosina when she thought Lindoro was betraying her, reinforcing stage director Pizzi’s firm commitment to comedy of character.

Esteemed Italian character mezzo soprano Elena Zilio sang Berta, sharing the tasks of Ambrogio, charmingly and broadly played by actor Armando de Ceccon, with little more to do that just be there to answer the door and bring in the laundry. Sig.ra Zilio’s “aria di sorbetto” “il vechhiotto cerca moglie” was met with huge applause. Note that in Rossini times sorbet was hawked near the end of a performance where such secondary arias were placed.

Sig. Pizzi directed, designed both sets and costumes, and designed the lighting with his associate Massimo Gasparon. The elegance of the costume design — abstracted formal wear in black and white, with Rosina in various solid colors — well served the elegance of the singing.

In his formative years Pier Luigi Pizzi worked as a designer with Giorgio Strehler and Luca Ronconi, incorporating much of mid-twentieth century Italian avant garde into his theatrical vocabulary. He made his Pesaro Rossini Opera Festival debut in 1982 with Tancredi. During the 1980’s as well he both designed and directed productions at San Francisco Opera, notably Simon Boccanegra, Semiramide and Orlando Furioso (though these credits are not included on Wikipedia). His productions have appeared in all of the world’s major theaters.

The male chorus of the Teatro Ventidio Basso (an historic opera house in Ascoli Piceno, a town halfway between Pesaro and Rome) was the raucous police force. The Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale Della RAI (Italian Radio/Television) were the polished collaborators of maestro Abel.

Michael Milenski


Cast and production information: 

Il Conte d’Almaviva: Marim Mironov; Bartolo: Pietro Spagnoli; Rosina: Aya Wakizono; Figaro: David Luciano; Basilio: Michele Pertusi; Berta: Elena Zilio; Fiorello/Ufficiale: William Corrò. Chorus of the Teatro Ventidio Basso, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI. Conductor: Yves Abel; Regia, Scene e Costumi: Pier Luigi Pizzi; Regista collaboratore e Luci: Massimo Gasparon. Arena Adriatica, Pesaro, August 19, 2018.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):